Eclectic Thought Samples From Larry Burns

Sampling: A Portal to a Relationships

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As I spend ever more time with marketers in the consumer packaged goods space, I find that their passion for discovering more about their customers continues to expand. They especially crave the chance to engage customers in dialogues that foster a relationship. Wise marketers do want genuine, open engagement and communication so that they can better understand their customers and develop opportunities for new services and products based on what folks actually want.

The clever companies are recognizing much more frequently that product sampling is not just a terrific way to give people a chance to try the brand’s product, which we know from marketing science findings really is the best way to get someone to change their behavior.   Marketers are using the sampling technique for more than that. Using the sample itself as a portal to a relationship is becoming a much more prevalent practice.

Here’s what I mean by “a portal to a relationship”: many customers are quite willing to engage in an exchange of information in order to receive a sample. This willingness sets up a “fair value exchange.” A consumer is willing to talk a little bit about themselves and what they want or like in order to try the product that the manufacturer or brand is offering.

It turns out that when samples are used appropriately, and in the right context, presenting and offering brands to people across the internet is a very successful strategy. However, a balancing act is involved. If one attempts to “force”  a consumer into a transaction, as in, “You must sign up for my daily newsletter in order to receive the sample,” it’s not going to work as well. Sure, some people will sign up. But you limit the sense of “fairness” in this particular value exchange.

The human – the consumer – must be in charge of their willingness to engage with you. They will participate as long as you make that possible. Marketers will be pleased with the kinds of results that a sampling program can deliver, well beyond the high likelihood of getting people into the franchise and making a purchase.

If you allow the consumer to freely engage with you, and they do so in order to request a sample, then you can reach out to them at an appropriate time after the sample was sent to find out what they thought about it and gain data about their reaction. Post-sample outreach can also be structured to offer the sampler an opportunity to comment in a forum you’ve designed for this purpose. There are so many benefits to be gained by the brand beyond the consumer’s initial engagement, fair value exchange and willingness order a sample.

It goes without saying that marketers have to do the proper things in terms of privacy policies and making sure the person has an explicit understanding as to what you, as a marketer, will and will not do with their data.  Most good marketers already understand that.

So, as you think about sampling – and yes, it is a spectacular trial vehicle, in particular in the online space – you need to also think of your sampling program as a first step toward deeper engagement and understanding an individual consumer’s needs. Then, during the next consumer visit, utilizing this understanding offers you the opportunity (and expectation!) to provide your brand buyers with a far higher level of personalization, delivered in a more intelligent context, using more relevant information. And… guess what? The “relationship” can deepen, making it even more likely they will visit you again down the road. It’s easy to say that, and difficult to rein in some of our “push marketing” genes. But if your approach to your brand buyers is done in a manner suggesting that you truly value their attention, you will likely receive more of it.

Marketing One By One is really the trick all of us need to master.


Categorised as: Learning, Marketing, Sampling